Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead: Leadership Lessons from Richard Branson's "The Virgin Way"

In his book, The Virgin Way, Richard Branson shares a few key pieces of wisdom that have helped him to achieve the success he enjoys today. Here are some lessons that entrepreneurs can take from The Virgin Way, one of the most engaging books on leadership.

1. Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal

Richard Branson recommends living in the present and grasping every opportunity. While this is good advice for any aspect of life, it is particularly important when starting a business. The Virgin Way teaches entrepreneurs to take a proactive approach to their business ventures. The best leaders take every opportunity and inspire their followers to do the same.

2. Listening is the Most Important Skill

Subtitled “How to Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead,” The Virgin Way explains that the best leaders are great listeners. It’s important to listen carefully to everyone involved in a business venture, from individual team members to investors who allow the whole project to get off the ground. Listening allows entrepreneurs to make the most of the skills of those around them. It also encourages good relationships and helps everyone to take a joined-up approach to brand development. “Most people make the mistake of listening too little and talking too much,” says Branson, who adds that a better approach is “Say less, contribute more.”

3. Always Take Notes

People who take notes while listening are able to gather their thoughts and ask insightful questions when the speaker has finished. This is much more polite than interrupting someone who is speaking, and avoids disrupting the flow of their thought process. Branson advises carrying a notebook or tablet so that it is always possible to take notes when listening.

4. Be Passionate and Have Fun

With so many challenges facing entrepreneurs and startups, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lose motivation. Although entrepreneurs need to make many serious decisions when building their brands, it’s important to keep a sense of fun about the whole process. An entrepreneur's passion for their business or idea should never take the back seat.

5. Take Calculated Risks

“Fortune favors the bold,” says Branson in The Virgin Way. He advocates pushing the envelope - “zagging when everyone else is zigging.” This is a great approach to take when building a business. By daring to be different, entrepreneurs can set their business apart from other, even more established, brands within the same industry.

6. Put People First

According to  Branson, good leaders work to create a workplace culture that always puts people first. Flexibility is a key part of a people-first culture. One size rarely fits all, so it’s important to listen to the needs of each individual and find solutions that allow everyone to work at their best.

7. Hire Your Weaknesses

Rather than being held back by their weaknesses, smart leaders hire people who have complementary skill sets. According to Branson, one of the best pieces of advice he has received is hire your weaknesses.” By following this advice, Branson was able to build a team with the right distribution of skills to allow Virgin to thrive.


From entrepreneurs dreaming of starting their first business venture to established companies, everyone can learn valuable lessons from Richard Branson’s book, The Virgin Way. Within these pages, Branson lays out a few key leadership tips to help entrepreneurs take a fun, fresh and highly effective approach to leadership.

Do any of these tips resonate with your personal experience as an entrepreneur? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!